50-something golfers dominate first round of match play at Utah State Amateur
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
MIDWAY — They say golf is a young man’s game. At least that’s the way it usually is at the Utah Men’s State Amateur, where the teenagers and 20-somethings seem to dominate every year.
Last year, 41-year-old Jon Wright made a statement for the “old” guys by winning the State Amateur at the Salt Lake Country Club.
But you know what they also say — 50 is the new 40 — and this year, the 50-somethings are the ones making the noise at the State Am. Those guys took center stage during the first round of match play Wednesday afternoon.
Five golfers on the other side of 50 advanced with first-round victories at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, with most defeating players less than half their age.
Fifty-four-year-old Jeff Powars and three 50-year-olds, Mike Jorgensen, Brett Sampson and Kirk Siddens each knocked off college-age players, while 59-year-old Todd Barker beat an older player, fellow senior Steve Poulson. Also, 51-year-old Craig Wilson came this close to advancing as he took medalist Cole Ogden to the 19th hole before losing.
“I guess it’s the three P’s — putting, patience and persistence,’’ said Sampson, trying to come up with reasons for the older guys winning. Sampson, a former professional who lives in Springville, defeated Westminster golfer Kalin Peterson, 3 and 2.
Each of the 50-somethings agreed that patience was a big factor in their wins because while they try to keep the ball in play and not go for the pins, the younger players often try to bomb it and make birdies.
“Experience is a big in match play,’’ said Siddens, who has made match play eight times in the past 15 years, more than any other golfer in the state. He beat Dixie State golfer Cody Wass, 6 and 4. “Patience is also key — the young guys want to birdie every hole.’’
Powars, an assistant junior high principal from Washington Terrace, said he used the patient approach in defeating 21-year-old Steven Croft of Salt Lake City, 4 and 3.
“He was hitting it 50 yards past me, but I just hit every fairway and almost every green and putted well,’’ said Powars, who made it as far as the semifinals in 2006. “You almost have to ignore (your opponent). I just played my own game.’’
Barker, who won the 1997 State Amateur, is one of the oldest players ever to win a match in the State Am at age 59. He hadn’t won a match since 1998 and hadn’t even played in a State Am match since 2003 when he lost in the first round.
The Fore Lakes superintendent said he was playing “horrible” in a practice round Saturday when he got some tips from fellow senior golfers Scott Fairbanks and Siddens.
“They said, 'You’ve got to do this and do that,' so I did that and started making some birdies,’’ he said. “But I pulled a muscle in my back and am putting ice on it every night. Now I’m swinging hard and funny ... but it’s working. And I’m making some putts.’’
Jorgensen, a Richfield businessman, has been a match play regular throughout the past three decades and won a match as recently as two years ago when the tournament was also played at Soldier Hollow.
He knocked off one of the favorites in Devon Purser, a BYU golfer who is transferring to Weber State next year, in 19 holes.
Their match was nip-and-tuck all day, with only four “won” holes. At the 19th hole, Jorgensen hit his approach shot over the green on a hill 30 feet past the pin, which he called “jail,’’ while Purser hit the green 15 feet away.
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